More than 36 million American adults have some degree of hearing loss. That is more than four times the number of people who live in New York City.The statistics are shocking and even more so knowing that over half of those 36 million Americans are under the age of 65.Hearing loss is an increasing health concern in this nation that is often preventable. Twelve million Americans have hearing loss as a result of exposure to excessive noise levels.Taking time to see an audiologist for regular hearing screenings, using hearing protection in loud noise and knowing the signs of hearing loss can protect your hearing.“Hearing loss can be caused by exposure to loud noises, ear infections, trauma, or ear disease; harm to the inner ear and ear drum, illness or certain medications, and deterioration due to the normal aging process,” said Terrie Ziegler, an Eisenhower Army Medical Center audiologist. The amount of noise Americans are exposed to today plays an important role in the recent increase of hearing loss across the nation. Hearing loss is no longer just a health concern for seniors.Noise-induced hearing loss can be caused by prolonged exposure to any loud noise, such as concerts, sporting events, lawnmowers, fireworks, using ear buds at loud volumes or a brief exposure to a very intense sound, such as a gun shot near the ear.An environment is too loud and considered dangerous if:• You have to shout over noise to be heard.• It is painful to your ears.• It makes your ears ring during and after exposure.On average, most Americans don’t know how to recognize the first signs of hearing loss or which health professional is qualified to diagnose and treat the condition. If you think you may have a hearing loss, you need to see an audiologist.Have you stopped going to restaurants and social gatherings? Do you keep to yourself when in noisy environments? If you answered yes, you may have a hearing problem.According to Dr. Mark Little, EAMC’s chief of Audiology, “some signs of hearing loss are: trouble hearing conversation in a noisy environment such as restaurants, difficulty or inability to hear people talking to you without looking at them, and/or a constant ringing in your ears.”If you think you may have a hearing loss, you need to see an audiologist.An audiologist is a licensed and clinically experienced health-care professional who specializes in evaluating, diagnosing and treating people with hearing loss and balance disorders. The first step in treatment of a hearing problem is to get your hearing evaluated by an audiologist. A hearing evaluation will determine the degree of hearing loss you have and what can be done to help reduce the effects of hearing loss. Although most hearing loss is permanent, an audiologist can determine the best treatment, which may include hearing aids, assistive listening devices and hearing rehabilitation. Some people may have a problem with their ear drum or middle ear that could be resolved with medicines or surgery and would be referred to the ear, nose and throat specialist.EAMC’s Audiology Clinic provides hearing evaluations for all military beneficiaries and you may request a referral from your Primary Care Provider.If the evaluation indicates hearing aids would be beneficial, top-of-the-line technology is provided at no cost to active duty soldiers. Retirees can obtain hearing aids through the Retiree At Cost Hearing Aid Program that allows them to purchase hearing aids at government contract prices, usually less than $1,000 for the set of aids, compared to $6,000 in town. Dependents are referred to a civilian Tricare provider for no-cost hearing aids. Retiree dependents are not currently eligible for hearing aids at the MTF or through Tricare, but can request a hearing evaluation.